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Falklands express gratitude for ‘freedom’ 40 years after invasion

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The people of the Falkland Islands expressed their gratitude for the “freedom” to mark the 40th anniversary of the landing of British forces on the islands as part of its recapture from Argentina in 1982.

On May 21 and 22, 1982, British troops carried out an amphibious landing at San Carlos in the Falkland Islands. Argentine forces then surrendered on June 14, 1982.

The last landmines were cleared as recently as 2020, but craters, rubbish and countless memorials can still be seen scattered around the islands.

Today, 40 years after the invasion, the Falkland Islands government says it is a “forward-looking nation, determined to take control of its own destiny and shape its own success”.

Andrew Pollard, pictured in the Falkland Islands (Andrew Pollard/PA)

Andrew Pollard is a sixth generation Falkland Islander. He was born in West Yorkshire and moved to the Falklands aged seven.

Now 44 years old, he works as a wildlife guide and photographer.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he described his gratitude for the “freedom” enjoyed by the islanders.

“Although we are from the Falkland Islands, we are also very passionate about being British.

“People here are very grateful for what we have, whether it’s the natural environment or the community spirit.

“Freedom is also something that people cherish deeply. Many have experienced this demise and so I think I cherish things more.

Christ Church Cathedral in Port Stanley is the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world (Henry Jones/PA)

In early 2013, the Falkland Islands held a referendum on their political status as a British Overseas Territory.

The result was that 99.8% voted in favor of remaining as such.

Mr Pollard said the vote ‘clearly showed the feelings of islanders’, but added that ‘there is ongoing frustration on the islands that in 2022 the right to self-determination is being largely ignored by many’.

“We are of course very grateful for all the global support we receive. For many here, the invasion of Ukraine by (an) aggressive neighbor Russia evokes many memories of 1982 and similarities can be drawn.

Ms Betts told PA that the Falkland Islands are a ‘thriving independent community’ (Arlette Betts/PA)

Arlette Betts, 77, was born in the Falkland Islands and has lived there all her life except for a brief stay in Plymouth during the 1982 conflict.

She runs a guesthouse in Port Stanley, the capital, and told PA about her experience in the Falklands.

“I am passionate about the Islands and I have taken every opportunity to promote them.

“My company has made this very easy. The wildlife and ruggedness are unique and the beaches (are) spectacular. When the sun is shining and there is no wind, it is magnificent.

Ms Betts said islanders were still thinking about the war, but added: ‘In a weird way, although I think the war has done us a favor.

“I don’t think the Falklands would be where they are today otherwise.

“We are now a thriving independent community with the exception of our defense of course. It is very comforting to know that they are there to protect us.

The Ministry of Defense maintains a permanent presence in the Falklands, with over 1,000 personnel stationed there, along with fast Typhoon jets and the Royal Navy’s HMS Forth.

A pair of Typhoon jets flying over the Falkland Islands (MOD Crown Copyright/PA)

Despite their remoteness, the Falkland Islands are nevertheless well connected to the outside world.

The main airport, RAF Mount Pleasant, receives two flights from the UK each week, known as the Air Bridge, as well as a weekly flight from Santiago, Chile.

The Falklands also have a regular cargo delivery approximately every six weeks.

“Overall the Falklands are well stocked with most things,” Ms Betts told PA.

“The supermarkets are extremely well stocked. In fact, there’s very little you can’t get here. The airlift brings a lot of mail, so people are buying online,” Ms Betts added.

The Falkland Islands government is the largest employer, with agriculture, retail and tourism among the other main employers.

The sport is played across the Falklands; the country is represented at the Commonwealth Games and an annual horse race is held every Christmas. The Stanley Golf Club claims to be one of the southernmost golf courses in the world.

Residents live in Port Stanley, or “Camp”, a term used to refer to anywhere outside of Stanley.

Port Stanley was recently among eight places to earn coveted city status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Pete Biggs, Speaker of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen for this very rare award”, adding: “This celebration of his extraordinary reign comes at a time when we, in the Falkland Islands, are also reflecting an extraordinary time in our own history, as we remember the events of 74 days in 1982 when we were invaded.

“For our small community, it was an unprecedented time, but I am delighted that, 40 years after those dark days, we are being recognized in this way – I think it shows how far we have come in this period. Over the past four decades, we have built a thriving and prosperous nation that continually looks to the future while respecting our past.